Easy Does It

Beinart, Peter
November 2004
New Republic;11/8/2004, Vol. 231 Issue 19, p6
The article discusses the different attitudes about voting from the Republican and Democratic political parties in the United States. Behind all the Republican screaming about voter fraud and all the Democratic screaming about voter disenfranchisement is this fundamental truth: Liberals and conservatives do not see voting the same way. Conservatives do not want to make voting easy. Their rationale is that easy voting allows voter fraud. Of course, voter fraud is a bad thing, but it is also the natural result of higher turnout. The Republican Party pays lip service to cultural populism, but, among serious conservatives, there remains an older strain of principled elitism, a fear of the uninformed masses, which are motivated by passion rather than reason. I am not saying contemporary conservatives are anti-democratic; they just do not think greater political participation will produce better government. As a liberal, I think conservatives are wrong. In Bowling Alone, Harvard's Robert Putnam notes that "some recent evidence suggests that the act of voting itself encourages volunteering and other forms of good citizenship." Inculcating democratic values becomes even more important when you realize that a disproportionate percentage of the "disconnected" are African American.


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